Gov. Ron DeSantis has been able to enjoy presiding over a state with record low jobless numbers. But not for much longer.
A day after the Department of Economic Opportunity announced the state unemployment rate for January stood at 2.8 percent, DeSantis on Tuesday acknowledged the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, will drive up jobless numbers.
“This is an external factor that is going to cause problems,” DeSantis said.
Trying to slow the spread of COVID-19, bars and nightclubs have been ordered to close for a month. Entertainment venues from Disney and Universal to Major League Baseball spring training have shut down. The cruise industry has been hammered. Efforts continue to cut down spring break gatherings.
The leisure and hospitality field accounts for 1.28 million, or about 14 percent, of the 9.07 million non-agricultural jobs in the state.
Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson said Wednesday that unemployment claims are already spiking.
“Since last Thursday, we have seen over a 100% increase in unemployment claims,” Lawson said. “At the same time, I am ensuring my staff is able to help those people and ensure that we process those claims.”
Tens of thousands of people are expected to make jobless claims to the state, which offers 12 weeks of benefits that top out at $250 a week.
DeSantis, who said he wants immediate relief in a federal stimulus plan for small businesses and workers surviving paycheck to paycheck, thinks the eventual end of “social distancing” and self-isolation will cause a surge in production.
“I do believe there is going to be pent-up demand,” DeSantis said. “I think that people already are getting a little tired with all the changes we’ve seen in society, and hopefully this doesn’t go on for months and months. But I can just tell you, when we get on the back side of this, I think people are really going to want to get back to work.”
Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, all bars and nightclubs in Florida were closed on March 17 for 30 days. As of March 18, Central Florida restaurants are still open for takeout and delivery, and grocery stores are open during limited hours. Follow CDC guidelines and Orange County advisories on staying safe.